Beauty Is 

Ballet made for a tsar


To people who want their ballet light and tight, The Sleeping Beauty might seem like a rickety 19th-century artifact, uselessly operatic in scope, painfully long-winded, and kicked awake here and there by a stunning variation or a delightful solo. But aficionados of the big ballets have no problem grasping that The Sleeping Beauty is among the classical gems. In fact, it is the sort of timeless marriage of music, choreography, narrative, and symbolism that distinguishes great art from the merely good. Add to that the prospect of seeing the ballet performed by the Kirov Ballet, the company on whom it was built in 1890, with the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in the pit, and The Sleeping Beauty is an event to get out of bed to see. Arriving on tour for six performances at Cal Performances this week beginning tonight (Wednesday), the Kirov is bringing more than a hundred performers and a lavish array of sets and costumes in the kind of show made for a tsar. Opening the run as Aurora (Beauty) is the acclaimed Diana Vishneva, a dancer hailed for her impeccable technique and modern attack. What is less often said is that she has a vixen's edge and a great deal of glam power. Channeled through the virginal Beauty, asleep for a century and awakened by love, these qualities could make for a potent and resonant fairy tale indeed. She performs tonight with bulky but dashing Igor Zelensky and on Saturday night with boyish Igor Kolb.

Fairy tales were to 19th-century ballet what Greek myths have been for both modern dance and ballet in the 20th. When Marius Petipa, the dance genius of the Mariinsky Ballet as it was then called, teamed up with Piotr Tchaikovsky, the pair turned to these tales to hoist ballet out its adolescence into true poetic maturity, first with Swan Lake, then Beauty more than a decade later. The score, composed in only forty days, is understood as one of Tchaikovsky's finest, bursting with the elements that define his genius -- crystalline beauty, lush melancholy, signature patterns and motifs, and cinematic sweep. Petipa matched him onstage, building exquisite geometric flow among large groups and small and crafting solos of virtuosic, effortless humanity. True, the ballet was toyed with during the Soviet era, and no pure record of Petipa's choreography exists. Even so, the combined genius of Tchaikovsky and Petipa is still capable of waking us.

Tickets ($48-$110) from 510-642-9988 or -- Ann Murphy


Get a Clue

A lead-pipe cinch

"Professor Plum in the kitchen with a revolver." Who among us hasn't played Clue and tried to figure out whodunit, one piece of evidence at a time? The 1985 movie version starring Tim Curry was middling, but the current San Ramon Community Theater show promises to have audience members up to their ears in mystery, suspense, and intrigue, as red herrings and actual clues go bump in the night this Saturday (2 and 8 p.m.) and Sunday (6 p.m.) at the brand-new Front Row Theater (17011 Bollinger Canyon Rd.). Tickets: 925-973-3200. -- Eric K. Arnold

SUN 10/16

Star-Spangled Banter

A musical tribute to John Philip Sousa performed by singer-actors accompanied by four-hand piano? Strangely enough, that's the setup for Oh Mr. Sousa!, a "semistaged concert" bio of the 19th-century American March King, composer of some of the most stirring march tunes in the world, including "The Washington Post March" and "Stars and Stripes Forever" (he also wrote the Monty Python theme song aka "Liberty Bell March"). The show plays Berkeley's Freight & Salvage in a tryout run -- it'll eventually boast a 23-piece concert band -- Sunday night at 8. For tickets and information, visit or -- Kelly Vance


High Society

Musicals can often be hit-or-miss, but it's hard to lose when you're working with the Cole Porter songbook, as Danville's Role Players Ensemble Theatre does in its season-opening show, Red Hot and Cole. Based on the life of the great Broadway songwriter, the show features such memorable tunes as "Night and Day," "Anything Goes," "High Society," and "I Love Paris," stars Alan Cameron as Porter and Terry Darcy D'Emidio as his wife Linda, and marks the directorial debut of Jennifer Denison Perry. The play opens Friday, and runs through November 5 at the Village Theatre, 233 Front St., Danville. For tickets, visit or call 925-314-3463. -- Eric K. Arnold


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